Cyber-crooks using celebs as bait

With the Oscars announced last week, Panda Security, the global IT security vendor, has revealed the most popular celebrity names sent in malicious emails (spam and malware-infected emails) by cyber-crooks.

“Cyber-criminals are always keeping track of the names that users frequently search for on the Internet or those that often crop up in forums or social networks,” says Jeremy Matthews, head of Panda Security’s sub-Saharan operations. “They then use these names when sending spam. This way, they entice users into opening the emails and following links or running attachments. This is known as social engineering. Users that take the bait will invariably end up infecting their computers with a virus or worm that could seriously damage their PC.”

The results of the survey clearly indicate how Hollywood actors were the favorite bait of cyber-crooks in 2008. Specifically, Brad Pitt (12.57%) and Tom Cruise (12.14%) occupied the first two places in the ranking and accounted for almost a quarter of all malicious mail related to famous people. They are this year’s joint-winners of the malware Oscars.

The girls weren’t far behind, though, occupying most of the remaining places in the top ten. Actresses Angelina Jolie (11.62%), Lindsay Lohan (10.15%), and Jessica Alba (9.52%) were in fourth and fifth and seventh places respectively. Jennifer Aniston, with 5.14%, was 10th in the ranking.

However the list also contained singers, both established and aspiring. Britney Spears was in third place with 12.01% of the total while the participants in American Idol came in sixth place, accounting for 9.79%.

Eighth and ninth places were occupied by the veteran TV presenter Oprah Winfrey (8.08%) and celebrity heiress Paris Hilton (6.64%) respectively.

Christina Aguilera, Barack Obama, Lewis Hamilton, Tiger Woods, Rihanna, Shakira, Madonna, Scarlett Johansson and Fidel Castro are some of the other famous names that have been used recently used as bait by cyber-crooks.

Typical phrases that are used in these emails include:

“Angelina Jolie nude”
“Britney Spears hot images”
“Rihanna exposed”
“Scarlett Johansson spills boobs”.

Matthews advises users not to open any unsolicited mail claiming to contain stories or photos of famous people and never to run any attachments or follow any links in these messages. If you think you’ve got a virus, you can scan your PC at www.infectedornot.com. You can also get cool internet safety tips from Panda’s blog: www.cybersafety.co.za

The Malware Oscar Winners:

Brad Pitt – 12.57%
Tom Cruise – 12.14%
Britney Spears – 12.01%
Angelina Jolie – 11.62%
Lindsay Lohan – 10.15%
American Idol – 9.79%
Jessica Alba – 9.52%
Oprah Winfrey – 8.08%
Paris Hilton – 6.64%
Jennifer Aniston – 5.14%
Others – 2.34%

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